Some historians have said that the modern day workers movement began with the founding of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in 1907. It was founded by Jim Larkin who was an Irishman that had grown up in a blighted neighborhood in Liverpool. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://spartacus-educational.com/IRElarkin.htm and http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/books/the-definitive-biography-of-big-jim-larkin-372254.html
His aim was to improve the lives of workers in all industries such as no more than 8 hours of work a day, unemployed people being given jobs, compulsory arbitration courts to settle disagreements between workers and owners, and pensions for everyone past the age of 60 among other issues.
From 1907 to 1912 he called a string of strikes at different Irish employers. During this time the union grew from 5,000 members to 15,000. His biggest and most effective strike, though, occurred in 1913. Read more: James Larkin | Ireland Calling and Jim Larkin | Wikipedia
This was known as the Dublin Lockout. 100,000 workers walked off the job and refused to return until their conditions improved. The strike lasted 8 months and the business owners finally bowed to pressure and gave what the workers were asking for.
The next year he left Ireland for America. He was very much against World War 1 which had just started and wanted Ireland to stay out of it. He went to America in order to raise money for this cause. He traveled the country as a public speaker.
He was arrested, though, in 1919 during the red scare. The charge against him was “criminal anarchy” and he was jailed in Sing Sing Prison in the state of New York. In 1923 he was released from prison and then deported from the country. He ended up back in Ireland where he resumed his worker organizing work.
Back home in Ireland, Jim Larkin started another workers union called the Workers’ Union of Ireland. He worked on housing problems in Dublin and did what he could to help workers.
He became a politician and was elected to represent North East Dublin for the Labour party. In December 1946 he fell through the floor of a union hall that was being repaired. He was in the hospital for over a month before dying on January 30 1946.